Our next post is a very raw look at what mental illness does to a person and how stigma and not understanding both what we go through and the strength we need to just get through some days. It is not easy reading but Laura paints a very true and meaningful picture. Let’s face it, Mental Illness is not pretty but that doesn’t mean we should kick it under the rug. I think this post is very relevant as we talk about awareness and stigma. I also suggest checking out the site for “To Write Love On Her Arms“.
Look Back At Me
By Laura Tietz, ribbonrx
Trigger warning: depression and self-harm
Last night was a rough night. Not as bad as it could have been. Just some tears and feeling sorry for myself. It’s always worst late at night, especially after David goes to bed (I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone to bed before him in the past 6 1/2 years of marriage.)
I filled up a couple pages in my journal with my feelings, since writing it all down helps me to process it. (Plus I had extra time thanks to setting the clocks back an hour!) But then I reached a point in my thinking where I didn’t know what to do.
The urge to self-harm came upon me like a tidal wave. I desperately wanted to, but at the same time, I didn’t. I’ve been good for seven months. I didn’t want to ruin that progress now.
Then I remembered a coping strategy I had read somewhere; I honestly can’t remember where now. It involved using a permanent marker to take the place of your cutting tool. So I took a permanent marker and wrote on my arms what I wanted to say. I wasn’t sure if it would make me feel better, but surprisingly, it did. A lot. Especially considering what I wrote. “TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS.” For the first time, it wasn’t self-deprecating. I decided to go public with the picture I took to see what would happen, shortly after an honest blog post about my true feelings.
Clearly, there were some who understood and some who didn’t.
I appreciated the “me too” responses and the helpful suggestions of other coping mechanisms that worked for them, like doing good things for other people. That’s why when David got home last night at midnight and said he needed a shirt washed by morning, I had happily grabbed the laundry basket before he’d finished talking and stayed up until 2 am (although more like 3 am with the time change) to make sure it got done. Some other things I’ve already been doing as well, like making a “thankful for” list, but I need to get back to doing it daily. After all, the apostle Paul said, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18.) It’s helpful to receive advice from those who share your struggles, because you really don’t know what you’re dealing with until you’ve been on this side of it.
No, I did NOT self-harm, as some implied. That was the whole point of using the permanent marker. So to say I’m “back to self-harming” and to condemn me for it is not the best response.
And yes, there was the obligatory “you need serious help” response. Which I get. And I am. It’s not my fault that mental health is considered the bastard stepchild of healthcare and I can’t get an appointment with a psychiatrist because none of them are taking new patients and there’s a 2-3 month wait to see a nurse practitioner. No one gives a crap about mental health and our society is suffering for it.
Are you ashamed by the above image? I’m not. But I hope you are. Does it make you want to look away? I hope so. Go ahead, turn away from it. Because maybe then you’ll realize that your attitude towards those with mental health issues is part of the problem. You’re part of the reason there is a problem in the first place. Just like most of the rest of society that ignores us and stigmatizes us to the point that we are the ones ashamed to seek help.
You have a brain tumor? Oh no! And an aneurysm? What rotten luck, hope you get it fixed soon. You’re depressed? And self-harming? You should be ashamed of yourself! What do you possibly have to be sad about? I can’t believe you. Snap out of it!
We’re condemned for having the problem and condemned when we’re strong enough to seek help for it.
So now that you’ve turned your back on the problem, I dare you. Turn around. And look back at me.